Herbs & Supplements

The variety of vitamins and natural supplements available today can be confusing and overwhelming. The NorthStar blog on herbs and supplements provides the latest updates on what's out there, what works, what doesn't and why.

  1. Big Pharma creates ambiguity beween vitamins and prescription drugs

    Did you know that Big Pharma has mastered the art of dark magic when it comes to vitamins and prescription drugs?

    Yep. They‘ve figured out how to turn a $7 vitamin into an outrageously expensive "prescription medicine" that you can only get with doctor‘s order. And it‘s a profitable hoax, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for the drug giant Abbott Labs. (And better yet, this is not Big Pharma‘s first stab at black magic. They‘ve done it before...and that "prescription medicine" now rakes in billions of dollars each year.)

    I‘ll explain to you how Abbott pulled off this hoax in a moment, but first let me back up...

    Last month‘s Journal of the American Medical Association ran an ad for a prescription medicine called Niaspan. It‘s targeted to men and women with coronary artery disease and high cholesterol. According to Niaspan web site, this prescription medicine:

    ...works to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels in people with abnormal cholesterol levels. Medical experts believe thelpstarhat increasing good cholesterol can help carry excess cholesterol out of your body. Niaspan also works to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.

    Plus, Niaspan can "reduce the risk of another heart attack in people who have high cholesterol and a history of heart attacks." Sounds great if you‘re someone who takes drugs, right?

    Now, here‘s the thing about Niaspan...

    It isn‘t really a drug.

    In fact, it‘s nothing more than time-released niacin (otherwise known as vitamin B3)! Plus, you can get a month‘s supply of the stuff (without a doctor‘s order) from most vitamin shops for under $7.

    Without a doubt, you‘re much better off going that route...because Abbott Labs will charge you a heck of a lot more. I‘ll tell you exactly how much more a little later. But first, consider this...

    Big Pharma pulled a bait and switch before

    A few years back, Big Pharma pulled a similar type of bait and switch with vitamins and prescription drugs. You‘ve probably heard of a prescription drug called Lovaza, right? I chuckled when I first heard about it, because it‘s nothing more than refined fish oil. But it sounds snazzy and you need a doctor‘s prescription for it...so it must work better than regular fish oil, right?


    It doesn‘t. It contains the same active ingredients you find in fish oil: EPA and DHA.

    But Big Pharma managed to fool many, many Americans with this hoax.

    In fact, this kind of con is hugely profitable for Big Pharma. Global sales of Lovaza top $1 billion dollars per year. For this reason alone, we will see more and more vitamins magically "repackaged" and sold as drugs.

    Big Pharma boosts profits with copycat drugs

    In the case of niacin, Abbott Labs saw how well this B vitamin could lower your cholesterol and decided to get in on the action.

    They put some execs in a board room to rename it. Then, they came up with a slick marketing campaign to confuse the heck out of you.

    The ads make Niaspan sound more desirable than regular old vitamin B, with claims that it lowers your cholesterol and your heart attack risk. (You see, drug companies have carte blanche to talk about diseases in their marketing campaigns. Vitamin companies cannot or they risk getting shut down by the FDA. So suddenly, niacin becomes a "prescription medicine" targeted to patients with heart disease.)

    So with a flick of the dark magic wand, suddenly you can only get niacin (er, Niaspan) with a doctor‘s prescription.

    Unfortunately, this scheme will snow lots of folks...especially those who think vitamins and prescription drugs are incomparable. These folks will also buy Niaspan for an outrageous price (I promise I‘ll get to that in a moment) and Abbott Labs gets to keep the tidy profits.

    The real truth about niacin

    Niacin is a great vitamin. A water-soluble B vitamin, it helps your body convert carbs into fuel. It can also dramatically raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. I‘m talking increases of 15 to 35 percent. This alone helps to sweep the bad cholesterol out of your system. Plus, niacin can lower your triglycerides as well.

    No wonder Big Pharma became interested in niacin, right?

    Now, niacin does have one main side effect. It can cause a "niacin flush" effect, with symptoms of tingling, redness, and itching similar to temporary sunburn. But this only lasts 15 minutes or so. Plus, it tends to go away altogether once the body becomes more accustomed to the higher dosages.

    Niaspan gets around this because it contains time-release niacin. This reduces the amount of flushing you experience. But I‘d stay away from it. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, time-release niacin may be more toxic to your liver than immediate-release forms.

    Just how much does this copycat niacin cost?

    After I saw the Niaspan ad, I was curious. I wanted to know how much Abbott charged for the stuff.

    So I went to my local Walmart and asked the pharmacist on duty how much a 30-day supply runs. She told me that 30 Niaspan tablets (1,000 mg each) cost a whopping $139.08.

    I was so dumbfounded, I asked her to write it down. Who the heck would pay that much when you can get it at the grocery store for under seven bucks?

    Well, apparently, a lot of folks.

    Copycat niacin is big business. I ran a quick check on drugs.com and found that Niaspan actually ranks among the top 50 best-selling drugs in America. In 2009, it even sold more units than Cialis and Tamiflu.

    Go figure.

    Well, regular old immediate-release niacin from your grocery store shelf works just as well. Plus, I think  it will be a whole lot easier on your wallet (non-time-release is often even less than $7!).

    For anyone with high cholesterol, I‘d suggest starting with 100 mg of it three times day. This is not really enough to get the job done, usually, but it can get you used to the flush. Once your tissues get used to that dose, you can increase to 250 or 500 mg three times day, but check with your doc.

    Also, if you take prescription niacin now, be sure to talk to your doctor before making the switch.

  2. Vitamin D conspiracy leads straight to Big Pharma

    You've probably heard about the bad rap vitamin D has been getting lately. The argument goes something like this...the vitamin D crisis isn't as bad as we thought. You probably don't need as much of it as we thought. But it's a free country. So go ahead and take 400 IU of it per day, if you want. That's more than enough. Just don't go over 4,000 IU per day. "High doses" like that can increase your risk for "harm."

    These new guidelines come from the U.S. Institute of Medicine (or IOM), a powerful non-profit agency that advises the nation of matters of health. But here's the problem: Their report is pure propaganda.

    In fact, I believe these low doses of vitamin D are a deliberate attempt to keep the American public needing more drugs until the day they die. (I'll admit,that sounds a tad paranoid. But I'll explain why my paranoia is well-founded in a moment.)

    First, let's look at the three major problems with the IOM research.

    Leave it to the IOM to redefine "majority"

    First off, the IOM report states that the "majority" of adults living in the U.S. get enough vitamin D...and that's just nonsense.

    As you'll recall, last week I told you about a major CDC study that found almost 80 percent of Americans don't get enough vitamin D. Plus, another major study published late last year by researchers from the University of Tennessee came up with similar results. In fact, this time researchers found that 87 percent of the general population is mildly to severely deficient in vitamin D. Even the most conservative estimates put vitamin D deficiencies at about 50 percent of the population.

    So how the IOM can confidently claim the "majority" of Americans get enough vitamin D, I have no idea!

    Spend a minute in the sun each day

    The IOM report also states that "North Americans need on average 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. People age 71 and older may require as much as 800 IUs per day because of potential changes in people's bodies as they age."

    Again, this is pure nonsense. But before I go any further, here's a quick biochemistry primer...

    The IOM says you only need 400 IU of vitamin D. But they actually mean 400 IU of vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol). Your skin makes this natural form of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. In fact, spending just 30 minutes in the sun without sunscreen, your skin will produce anywhere from 10,000 IU to 50,000 IU of D3! Plus, you can also take D3 as a supplement.


    Vitamin D3 passes through your liver and it turns into a pre-hormone called 25-hydroxycholecalciferol. This is abbreviated as 25(OH)D.

    When you get a vitamin D blood test, we really want to see how much 25(OH)D is in your blood. We measure 25(OH)D in nanomoles per liter or nmol/l.

    Now, stick with me, because here's where it gets interesting...

    According to the IOM report, taking just 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day will give 97 percent of us a blood serum level of 50 nmol/l. And that level will protect us from fractures. Sounds okay, I guess. But let me put this another way to show you just how silly the IOM recommendation really is...

    Let's assume that your body makes 10,000 IU of D3 for every 30 minutes spent in the sun without sunscreen. (Most experts say you make at least twice that much...but let's not get picky.) So, how long does it take for your body to make 400 IU of D3?

    Hurray! Just 1.2 minutes in the sun! That's all you need to keep your bones strong.

    Is it me, or does that just sound wrong?

    Well, here's the good news. It isn't just me. It is wrong. And there's some solid scientific proof to back me up...

    IOM gets their numbers wrong

    Two major meta-analysis' from 2009 found that 50 nmol/l of 25(OH)D in your blood isn't enough to protect you from a fracture or a fall. In fact, 28 separate studies found that 50 nmol/l isn't enough!

    Plus, the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends men and women have 75 nmol/l of 25(OH)D. This is what it takes to protect you from accidental falls and fractures. Lastly, numerous studies over the years show that the more 25(0H)D in your blood, the greater your bone density. But to get up to those higher levels of 25(OH)D, you need more D3.

    Plus, here's another interesting twist. The authors of the IOM report most likely knew about all this research...they just chose to ignore it.

    You see, before publishing the new vitamin D guidelines, the IOM board consulted with Dr. Walter Willet. The board even thanked Dr. Willet at the end of their report.

    So who's Dr. Willet?

    He's a vitamin D expert and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard. He also co-wrote one of the 2009 reports on vitamin D I mentioned earlier. The IOM, however, ignored his findings.

    But don't feel bad, Dr. Willet. Yours isn't the only research the IOM ignored...

    IOM report ignores research on vitamin D and disease

    Remember how I told you the IOM said 400 IU of D3 is enough to protect you against osteoporosis? Well, what about everything else...like cancer and heart disease?

    In a press conference, IOM chair Dr. Catherine Ross said "We could not find solid evidence that consuming more [vitamin D] would protect the public from chronic disease ranging from cancer to diabetes to improved immune function." And with that simple statement, Dr. Ross lost all credibility.

    Here are some of the best studies linking vitamin D and major diseases:

    Breast cancer: Women with vitamin D blood serum levels less than 50 nmol/mL are eight times more likely to develop an aggressive form of breast cancer.

    Colon cancer: Men and women with the highest vitamin D levels cut their colon cancer risk by 40 percent.

    Heart Disease & Stroke: Men and women with low vitamin D double their heart attack or stroke risk.

    Cognitive decline: Older women with low vitamin D are twice as likely to suffer cognitive impairment.

    Diabetes: A whopping 91 percent of diabetics have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Plus, the less vitamin D in their blood, the greater their blood sugar problems.

    And I'm just scratching the surface here! If you want to look at all the scientific data on vitamin D, the Vitamin D Council is a good place to start. They list the studies by disease, so you can see the all scientific data Dr. Catherine Ross and her colleagues missed.

    In closing, there's one last reason why the IOM report has the pungent smell of propaganda...

    There's a rat in the house

    Glenville Jones, PhD is one of the authors of the IOM report. He's a scientist and also the co-inventor of drug made by a company called Cytochroma. This drug is still in development....but what condition will they treat with their top-secret drug?

    You got it.

    Vitamin D deficiencies!

    (I'm not making this stuff up. You can see the patent for yourself at the U.S. Patent Office website.)

    Dr. Jones also sits on the scientific advisory board of a drug company called Receptor Therapeutics. These guys also made a synthetic vitamin D treatment for cancer...in fact THREE synthetic vitamin D treatments for cancer. (Drug companies use synthetic vitamin D because they can patent it and make a huge profit. You can't patent natural vitamin D.)

    Well, isn't that so thoughtful...

    You don't need to take vitamin D. But if you do happen to get cancer...guess who plans to have a vitamin D drug you can take?

    Here's the bottom line for you: Ignore anything published by the IOM. Take up to 5,000 IU of natural vitamin D3 each day. And avoid anything made by Cytochroma and Receptor Therapeutics.

    Want more facts about vitamin D? Look back at all the Guide to Good Health reports by following this link. In the search box, type "vitamin D" and you'll find 40 articles.

  3. The real facts about vitamin D

    According to a report presented by Dr. Catherine Ross and her colleagues from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the “majority” of Americans already get enough vitamin D. Of course, the mainstream press picked up this report and had a field day. Now here’s the problem: The report is pure hogwash. In fact, a major study conducted in Dr. Ross’ own backyard discredits the IOM’s finding completely.

    Take a look at the real facts…

    Between 1988 and 1994, CDC scientists examined 18,883 adult men and women living in the U.S. They found that only 45 percent had adequate blood serum levels of vitamin D (at least 30 nanograms per milliliter). Now, I’ll admit it, I’m not great at statistics. But according to my math that means 65 percent of the sample didn’t have enough vitamin D! Plus, get this… A decade later, the CDC scientists again sampled more than 13,000 Americans for vitamin D. This time, only 23 percent of the men and women had adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood. And just three percent of African-Americans had enough! So you tell me… How can the Dr. Ross and the IOM scientists say with confidence the “majority” of us get enough vitamin D? Clearly, someone is not reading her intra-office mail. (Yes, Dr. Ross, I mean you!) Well, for you, not much has changed. Have your blood serum levels tested annually. And if you’re vitamin D deficient, like most Americans, you can safely take up to 5,000 IU of D3 each day to turn things around.
  4. Magnesium deficiency could increase risk of sudden fatal heart attack

    Common mineral slashes risk for sudden cardiac death

    More often than not, a fatal cardiac arrest hits without warning. Called a "sudden cardiac death" or SCD, it hits men and women who didn‘t have high cholesterol. They didn‘t have high blood pressure. They didn‘t even have angina pain. But many of them did have one hidden problem. In fact, according to two new scientific studies, this little-known problem affects a shocking number of men and women who die suddenly from heart failure. Turns out they‘re deficient in a vital mineral that‘s involved in literally hundreds of biochemical functions...from energy metabolism to DNA repair. It also helps to relax your arteries, keeping your blood pressure low. It also seems to help prevent heart arrhythmias, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death.

    Lack of magnesium: Major health problem

    When it comes to minerals, calcium gets most of the attention. But low magnesium is a major health problem. In fact, I‘ve read estimates that say up to 90 percent of the adult population in the U.S. is magnesium deficient. And there are a couple of reasons why this happens...

    First off, most men and women don‘t eat enough fruits and vegetables. These (as well as nuts and beans) are the best natural sources for magnesium. Plus, even if you do eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and nuts, these foods just don‘t contain as much magnesium as they used to.

    You see, poor commercial farming practices over the last 100 years have robbed U.S. soil of magnesium. So a serving of spinach in 2010 doesn‘t contain nearly the same amount of magnesium that it did back in 1910.

    As a result, you probably need to take a supplement to get the Recommended Daily Allowance. (I recommend a slightly higher amount than the RDA for anyone concerned about heart health. More details in a moment.)

    Unfortunately, very few of us do get the RDA, and take a look at what can happen...

    Fatal cardiac arrest risk skyrockets

    U.S. researchers looked at data for 90,000 healthy women enrolled in the Nurses‘ Health Study. These women filled out questionnaires seven times between the years 1980 and 2002. They answered questions about the foods they ate and the supplements they took. Plus, two times during the course of that study, researchers gathered blood samples from the volunteers to check for magnesium levels.

    At the end of the 26-year study, researchers found that about 500 women suffered sudden cardiac deaths. This means that death occurred within one hour of symptom onset.

    And low magnesium intake definitely stood out as a compounding factor. In fact, researchers found that women with low magnesium intake (less than 261 mg per day) were 34 percent more likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death than women with adequate daily intake (more than 345 mg per day).

    Plus, here‘s what I want you to remember about magnesium: You need to take it every day.

    You see, about half of the magnesium you take each day gets stored in your tissues and organs. The other half combines with calcium and phosphorus in your bones. But a crucial one percent of your daily intake circulates in your blood. And this tiny amount may make all the difference in whether or not you die from cardiac arrest. But you have to take the mineral everyday to keep your blood levels constant.

    In fact, researchers found that women with high plasma magnesium gained a ton of protection. They were 77 percent less likely to die from cardiac arrest compared to women with the lowest blood plasma levels.

    In their report, the researchers didn‘t hold back: "Given that most Americans do not meet the RDA for magnesium, increasing intake of magnesium presents a potential opportunity for sudden cardiac death prevention in the general population."

    Plus a study from earlier this year published in the American Heart Journal garnered very similar results.

    High blood plasma magnesium cuts SCD risk by 40 percent
    For this study, U.S. researchers looked at magnesium blood plasma levels in 15,000 men and women with atherosclerosis. They found that those with the highest levels of magnesium in the blood had a 40 percent reduced risk of suffering a sudden cardiac death. And those with consistently high blood plasma magnesium decreased their risk the most. Plus, the reduction in risk held true even after the researchers accounted for pre- existing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Clearly, magnesium plays a major role in preventing fatality from cardiac arrest. To support your heart health, I‘d take 500 to 800 mg of it per day. I‘d also add in 1,000 mg of l-carnitine, 100 mg of coenzyme Q10, and 400 to 800 IU of vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols) for anyone concerned about heart failure. Plus, for more aggressive treatment, try adding the amino acid taurine to your regimen. It can be as effective as coenzyme Q10 for cardiac output, congestive heart failure, edema (swelling), and palpitations. Three grams per day may be necessary. It‘s best taken between meals for optimal absorption. I‘ll continue to write about real ways to combat heart disease...and I promise, not one will involve taking a drug.
  5. Lack of vitamin D increases depression risk by 85 percent

    Low vitamin D increases depression risk by 85 percent

    If there‘s such a thing as an all-natural happy pill, vitamin D looks to be it. In fact, scientists recently analyzed vitamin D levels for 8,000 young men and women between the ages 15 and 39. They found that volunteers deficient in vitamin D were 85 percent more likely to have depression compared to volunteers with adequate levels. And even though this study looked at young folks, I‘m sure the lack of vitamin D has an even greater affect on older folks, like me. Truthfully, this vitamin D study should come as no surprise. Vitamin D has a profound effect on the brain. In fact, it helps to boost your body‘s production of the "feel good" neurotransmitter serotonin. Just consider why so many northerners suffer from so-called "seasonal affective disorder" (or SAD). Could it be any plainer? Most of them just don‘t get enough sunshine (which your body converts into vitamin D) between October and March. As a result, their mood suffers. So if you‘re feeling a little down over the winter months or you know you have SAD, have your vitamin D levels checked. Optimally, your vitamin D blood levels should be at least 75 nanomoles per liter. In addition, everyone (especially those living in northern parts of the country) should take up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day. It‘s the form of vitamin D most easily absorbed by the body.
  6. Vitamin D and cancer: What you need to know

    Over the years, I've talked a lot about vitamin D and cancer. In fact, recent estimates suggest that vitamin D protects against 22 different types of malignancies including breast, colon and prostate cancer. Well, it may be time to add another type of cancer to the list. Two months ago, researchers found that vitamin D also protects you against bladder cancer. For the vitamin D and cancer study, published in the journal Cancer Research, scientists recruited 500 men to take part in the study. Each of them were cancer-free at the beginning of the study. Researchers took blood samples of the men between 1985 and 1988 to check for levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is what vitamin D converts into in the body. Then, they compared men diagnosed with bladder cancer against men who did not have the disease. They found that men with less than 25 nanomoles per liter of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were 73 percent more likely to develop bladder cancer compared to men with at least 50 nanomoles per liter. And though the study was conducted with male smokers, I'm certain they will get the same results with nonsmokers and women. You see, scientists believe vitamin D helps to flush toxins out of your bladder. It also promotes the healthy turnover of cells in the bladder. So even if you're a woman or a nonsmoker, continue taking your vitamin D every day. Go for up to 5,000 IU per day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country.
  7. 10 ways to reduce holiday stress

    There's a lot you can do to reduce holiday stress. First off, make sure to eat protein with every meal. It's the great stabilizer for your blood sugar and your mood. Plus, it will help keep your cortisol levels right where they should be. Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes your "fight or flight" response. We all need it from time to time. But low protein intake day after day can make your cortisol levels climb high and stay high. And that's not good. In fact, chronically elevated cortisol can cause blood sugar problems, weight gain, and lowered immunity. So aim to get 10 to 20 grams of protein with each meal. That will go a long way in regulating your cortisol. Breakfast is usually the one meal where you'll fall short on protein. But that's an easy fix. Just eat an egg or two will help with holiday stress. Each egg contains almost seven grams of protein. Just make sure to go for organic, free-range brown eggs. Get them from a local farmer, if you can! You'll know these eggs are the real deal if they have dark (almost orange) yolks and hard shells. And if you're worried about the cholesterol in eggs, look back at last year's Guide to Good Health. You'll never think twice about eating real eggs again! Any type of oily fish (yes, even in the morning!) is also a good protein choice. Oily fish like salmon also contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These natural substances help to lower those pesky cortisol levels which tend to creep up during the holidays. The omega-3s in fish can also help reduce holiday stress. Plus, remember this...

    Whole grains burn slower

    During the stress of the holidays, it's more important than ever to choose whole grains. These grains boost the levels of serotonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain. Plus, whole grains are packed with fiber, which your body will burn more slowly. So opt for whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta at dinner. You won't suffer from the blood sugar crash that will make you cranky and tense. Good whole grains to work into your diet include: 100 percent whole wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, and brown rice. Okay, now we're really on a how to ease holiday stress roll. So why stop? This holiday, try your best to...

    Combine whole grains with nutrient-rich foods

    Make sure your meals contain lots of dark green vegetables. That's because dark greens such as broccoli, kale, and spinach contain lots of vitamin B. And the B vitamins keep your memory sharp, your energy high, and your anxiety low. Nuts also contain lots of B vitamins...as well as plenty of calming protein and magnesium. It's also a good idea to take a complex supplement that contains all eight forms vitamin B. Plus, look for a brand that contains at least 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. But don't stop there. Around this time of year, you may even consider taking a little extra B-12. It's one of the most important in this family of vitamins. Known as the "energy vitamin," it will help you power through holiday stress on even your most hectic days. Go for the sub-lingual form that you can squirt under your tongue. Your body will absorb this more easily than tablets.

    Eat more citrus fruits

    Next, I want you to eat more citrus this holiday season. Clementines are great this time of year and they contain lots of vitamin C. Research shows that vitamin C is a natural and powerful stress buster. In fact, in a recent German study, researchers found that men and women who were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C showed fewer signs of stress. For the study, researchers divided 120 men and women into two groups. One group received 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily and the other group received a placebo. Next, the researchers subjected the volunteers to a series of stressful situations...public speaking and math problems. Then, the researchers measured the volunteers' blood pressure and cortisol levels. Any guesses which group fared better? You betcha. The volunteers who took vitamin C had much lower blood pressure and much lower cortisol levels. Plus, they reported feeling less stress after they got the vitamin. So in addition to eating citrus this holiday season, make sure to supplement with vitamin C. I'd go for a bit more than what the volunteers in the study took. In fact, strive to get at least 1,000 mg of C twice a day. Take that amount three times a day if you're really feeling like your pot's going to boil over, it will definitely help you reduce holiday stress. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra your body doesn't need will get flushed. Plus, remember that vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time. So be consistent with your supplementing throughout the day and skip the time-released preparations as these are a waste of money.
  8. Vitamin D is critical to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients

    Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a brutal disease. And the standard treatment usually calls for waiting until the symptoms to get bad enough so you can start chemotherapy. But according to a major new study, you don't have to play this helpless waiting game. You can help control the progression of the disease with the help of vitamin D.

    For the study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic and University of Iowa recruited 390 patients recently diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. First off, they checked the patients' blood levels for plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

    They found that roughly 30 percent of the patients were deficient in vitamin D (levels lower than 25 nanograms per milliliter). Then the researchers checked back in on all the patients three years later.

    Unfortunately, the disease progressed much faster in those deficient in vitamin D.

    In fact, patients low in the vitamin had a 66 percent greater risk of disease progression during that time compared to their counterparts. Plus, they had more than double the risk of dying.

    According to Dr. Shanafelt, lead researcher for the study, "This tells us that vitamin D insufficiency may be the first potentially modifiable risk factor associated with prognosis in newly diagnosed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. This finding may be particularly relevant for this kind of leukemia because although we often identify it at an early stage, the standard approach is to wait until symptoms develop before treating patients with chemotherapy. This watch and wait approach is difficult for patients because they feel there is nothing they can do to help themselves."

    So if you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, show your oncologist this study. It was published on November 3, 2010 in the journal Blood. Once he gives you the okay, start taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. It's the form of vitamin D best absorbed in the body. Plus, though the study was limited to chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, I strongly anyone struck with cancer to take extra vitamin D.

  9. Improve gum disease with omega-3 fatty acids

    A new study found that men and women who get daily amounts of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce their risk of developing gum disease. Omega-3s are important to your oral health in two ways. First off, previous research shows that low doses of EPA, DHA, and ALA (all forms of omega-3 fatty acids) block the growth of oral pathogens, such as Streptococcus mutans, Candida albicans, and Porphyromonas ginigivalis. Plus... The latest study shows that omega-3s reduce inflammation in your gums. And that‘s a big deal. In fact, scientists believe it explains why men and women who ate foods containing moderate amounts of DHA and EPA were 20 percent less likely to develop gum disease. According to lead author Dr. Asghar Naqvi, Harvard Medical School, "To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. Thus, a dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis." "Our results also suggest that DHA ([in] doses recommended by the American Heart Association ...) may be as or more potent in influencing periodontitis," continued Dr. Naqvi. The easiest way to get plenty of DHA and EPA is with a fish oil supplement. Take it with meals to avoid the fishy aftertaste. Also, to combat the free radicals produced by the omega-3s in fish oil, take 400 IU of vitamin E along with it. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that will zap unwanted free radicals. Just look for all-natural vitamin E with mixed tocopherols.
  10. Skip the sedative hypnotic drugs and get a safer night sleep

    A recent study found that men and women who take sedatives to sleep may increase their mortality risk by more than a third. Now, I know that lack of sleep is a huge problem, especially if you‘re under a lot of stress. But if you take a drug like Ambien to catch some z‘s, you could be heading for disaster. The good news is, there are plenty of safe and natural sleep aids that won‘t send you to an early grave. More about those in a moment. But first, let me explain...

    Why sedatives are so bad

    According to some research, 20 percent of adults use some type of sleep aid each night. You may take an OTC drug like Tylenol PM to help get you through a rough couple of nights. These drugs contain antihistamines plus pain relievers. These drugs are tough on the liver and your digestive system, but they‘re not nearly in the same league as a prescription drug like Ambien. Ambien belongs to a class of drugs called sedative hypnotics. And there are two distinct types of sedative hypnotics. The first type of sedatives -- called benzodiazepines -- hit the market in the 1950s. Xanax and Ativan are the most well-known. Side effects range from daytime sleepiness to urinary incontinence to respiratory problems. But the biggest drawback for these heavy-duty drugs is the tendency to become dependent on them. Plus, these drugs stay in your system longer than a newer class of hypnotics called non-benzodiazepines. And that‘s why the more recent drugs like Ambien have been such blockbusters. They‘re perceived as safer and less addicting. But according to the new study, they‘re just as dangerous...if not more so because you think you‘re safe taking them for a longer period.

    Sedative drug use may increase mortality risk by 36 percent

    For this study, scientists analyzed data for 14,000 people. They found that men and women who took a sedative hypnotic drug had a 36 percent greater risk of dying. And those at greatest risk were men and women over age 55. In addition, men and women with pre-existing health conditions -- such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory disease -- also ran a greater risk of dying after taking a sedative. According to the published report, there are a number of reasons why this happens... First off, both types of sedative hypnotic drugs impair your ability to stay alert. They also affect your coordination. This -- they authors wrote -- contributes to an increase in falls and car accidents. Secondly, we know that these drugs can also trigger or aggravate breathing disorders. So imagine what taking a sedative will do to someone who‘s already got sleep apnea or asthma...or someone who smokes! It‘s a recipe for disaster. Lastly, these drugs may cause depression...or make existing depression worse. They can also play games with your central nervous system. As a result, feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin can be disturbed. Therefore, I‘m guessing that some of the premature deaths in the study may have occurred due to suicide. So if sedative drugs aren‘t the answer to your sleep problems...what is?

    Safely and naturally improving your sleep

    You already know to keep your room a cool, dark, TV-free zone. And exercising before bed will just rev you up. Plus, here are few other tips that should help you get back to a healthy sleep pattern... 1. Get off all stimulants. Yup, even in the morning. Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate are the obvious culprits. But you should also avoid taking ginseng, B12, or milk thistle before bed too. You‘ll also want to avoid eating bacon, cheese, chocolate, ham, potatoes, sugar, sausage, spinach, or tomatoes close to bedtime. These foods contain tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant. Most processed foods also contain tyramine. 2. Try upping your daily magnesium. Go for 500 mg capsules at bedtime. If you also suffer from mild anxiety, this amount of magnesium may also lessen your symptoms. 3. If you‘re under the age of 40, try using l-tryptophan. It‘s an essential amino acid found in turkey, chicken, tuna, whole grain crackers, eggs, bananas, figs and dates. So, if you must eat before bed, these are all safe choices. But of course, to get enough l-tryptophan from food, you‘d have too eat a lot of it— nothing like a whole turkey before bed, right? So supplementing is ideal. L- tryptophan will help gently induce sleep. Plus, unlike many drugs, it won‘t cause morning-after fogginess. That said, unfortunately, if you suffer from lactose intolerance, you may have trouble absorbing l-tryptophan. So if that‘s the case, stick to the other options. 4. I‘ve also seen excellent results using melatonin supplements. Just beware, melatonin is a hormone. So I don‘t recommend taking it if you‘re younger than 40. But as we get older, our melatonin production slows down so there‘s less of a chance of you getting "too much" by taking it as a supplement. Go for the smallest dose to start: 1.5 mg at bedtime for ages 40 to 50 or 3 mg for people over the age of 50. With higher dosages, you might wake up drowsy. If that‘s the case, you know you‘ve taken too much. 5. After a certain age, many of us wake up every night to visit the bathroom. If you want to get ahead of the curve and support healthy bladder function now, there‘s a plant extract call three-leaf caper that just might help. Used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, three-leaf caper strengthens and tones the bladder wall so it can empty more fully. You‘ll find three-leaf caper, along with several other herbs that support bladder function, in a NorthStar Nutritional product called UroLogic. To learn more about three-leaf caper and UroLogic, read this: http://www.northstarnutritionals.com/p/UroLogic.htm. For men interested in a product that supports bladder as well as prostate function, consider ProSense by NorthStar Nutritionals: http://www.northstarnutritionals.com/p/ProSense.htm. It‘s a safe, natural, and effective way to address both bladder and prostate health. Just remember, when you sleep it‘s your body‘s time to refresh and reboot. It‘s vital for your overall health. So if you‘re not getting enough restful z‘s, give one of these natural sleep aids a try.
  11. Study finds link between vitamin E and prostate cancer

    Scientists from Australia found that vitamin E might play a major role hampering the development and re-growth of prostate cancer tumors. For the study, Dr. Patrick Ling and a team of researchers injected mice with prostate cancer cells. Then, they divided the mice into two groups. They fed one group of mice water fortified with a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocotrienol or y-T3. The other group of mice drank regular water. Researchers found that 70 percent of the vitamin E mice never went on to develop prostate cancer tumors, despite being injected with malignant cells. And, yes, the remaining 30 percent did develop prostate cancer. But following surgery, their tumors were far less likely to re-grow or metastasize. On the other hand, tumors formed in 100 percent of the control group of mice not given vitamin E. Those incredible results, though tested on mice, show just how powerful vitamin E really is. According to Dr. Ling, "Currently there is no effective treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, because it grows back after conventional therapies in more than 70 percent of cases. But with [vitamin E3] researchers have found a better way to treat prostate cancer, which has the potential to inhibit recurrence of the disease." Dr. Ling went on to say that chemo, radiation, and hormone therapy fail to cure prostate cancer because they don‘t kill the cancer stem cell responsible for the re-growth of tumors. He also believes that y-T3 will also prove effective in suppressing other types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver and stomach. Dr. Ling and his team do have a clinical trial with men in the works. I‘ll pass on the results as soon as they‘re available. In the meantime, keep up the daily regimen of 400 IU of vitamin E. Choose only 100 percent natural vitamin E that contains mixed tocopherols. This will provide provide balanced antioxidant protection. At the very least, the bottle should say it contains d-alpha or D-alpha. Skip any bottle that says it contains Dl-alpha (note the different "Dl" prefix). This means it‘s a synthetic, cheap imitation of vitamin E. Plus, it probably won‘t contain y-T3.
  12. Antioxidant eases tinnitus in four weeks

    For anyone who has tinnitus (or ringing in the ears) that won‘t go away, a new natural treatment holds a lot of promise. Pine bark extract is a powerful antioxidant that improves blood flow, even to the inner ear. And that‘s exactly why it‘s gaining attention as a natural treatment for tinnitus. You see, many researchers believe lack of blood flow to your ear triggers tinnitus. But if you can improve blood flow to the ear, the ringing in your ears will improve as well. To see if this theory held any weight, Italian researchers recently tested pine bark extract on 82 patients with tinnitus. They divided the volunteers into three groups. The first group received 100 mg of pine bark extract per day for four weeks, the second got 150 mg and the third got a placebo. Researchers found that blood flow to the inner ear improved in both groups taking the pine bark extract. Plus, at the study‘s outset, the researchers gave volunteers the Subjective Tinnitus Scale (STS). It‘s a test to evaluate the symptoms of tinnitus. Following the pine bark supplementation, the volunteers‘ symptoms decreased in severity. In fact, the group taking 100 mg of pine bark dropped from 8.8 to 5.2. And the group taking 150 mg dropped to just 3.3. That‘s an improvement of 60 percent! Pine bark has a very good safety record. But because it does affect your circulation, make sure to consult with your doctor before trying it.
  13. Natural arthritis relief options

    If you‘ve got arthritis and take 1200 mg of ibuprofen every day, I have some safe and effective options for you to consider. You see, NSAIDs are rife with problems. Take one for too long and you‘re setting yourself up for gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, liver problems, kidney disorders, or even heart attack and stroke. In fact, widespread use of NSAIDs results in 107,000 hospitalizations (mostly due to bleeding in the GI tract) and 16,500 deaths in arthritis patients each year. But there are safe, effective options you can try so you don‘t wind up taking an NSAID for the rest of your life. First off, a new small study found that a natural plant extract might help relieve your pain as well as ibuprofen. Passion fruit peel extract is not exactly well-known in nutritional circles to treat arthritis, but previous studies show that it does reduce overall inflammation in the body. And that‘s probably why it appears to work against joint pain as well. For the recent study, scientists recruited 33 men and women with osteoarthritis in the knee and gave them a test to assess the severity of their arthritis symptoms. Then, the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into two groups. One group received 150 mg of passion fruit peel extract each day for two months. The other group received a placebo. At the end of two months, researchers checked back in the volunteers and again assessed the severity of their symptoms. The researchers found that the passion fruit group improved their overall arthritis scores by 20 percent. Plus, their pain, stiffness, and physical function scores also rose by about 20 percent. On the other hand, the group taking the placebo reported no improvements. According to the researchers, "The passion fruit peel extract supplementation should help patients to reduce their reliance upon NSAIDs that may have undesirable side effects in the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms." Now, based on this small study, I‘m not convinced that passion fruit peel extract will magically make your joint pain completely disappear. But it may help...and you may be able to back off your other meds. Plus, over the years, I treated arthritis pain a number of different ways...

    Ease joint pain and stiffness without drugs

    First off, if you are lucky, you may respond to a short trial of either B3 or B6. I say you‘re "lucky" because there are types of arthritis that will respond to this kind of vitamin treatment within a mere week or two. First I‘d try 250 mg of B3 (or niacin) two to three times a day. Taking B3 at this dose can cause flushing of the skin, so look for inositol hexanicotinate. It is considered a ‘no-flush‘ type of niacin. If that doesn‘t work after two weeks of steady supplementation, try 100-200 mg of B6. (Don‘t go higher than 400 mg per day. Some nutritionists worry about neuropathy at B6 levels higher than 400 mg, but I personally think it‘s very rare. Also, magnesium helps with B6 absorption. So make sure to get 400-500 mg per day of that as well. Secondly, I‘d definitely look for a supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support the growth of cartilage in your joints. But worn cartilage isn‘t the cause of all types of joint pain. And if that‘s your story, I have another suggestion. You see, there is a sticky, thick substance called synovial fluid that oils and lubes your joints. But when you don‘t have enough, your hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows ache, throb, and grind. And most of us over 50 don‘t have enough synovial fluid. But you can improve your synovial fluid with hyaluronic acid (HA). You see, HA is the main building block of synovial fluid. In fact, the more HA you have, the richer your synovial fluid. HA is naturally found in miso, beans, and radishes. You can also get it by injection. And recently, a few companies now offer it as a supplement. But make sure to do your homework. A lot of companies offer a synthetic form of HA that uses bacteria fermentation. Natural HA, on the other hand, is the way to go as it‘s stronger. Lastly, I‘d take a look at a substance called CMO (Cetyl-Myristoleate). It‘s a substance produced by certain animals that do not get (and cannot be induced to get) arthritis. This is harder to find and more expensive, so I only recommend it when all else fails. I‘ve gotten a lot of feed back about CMO...and it seems to either work wonders for you or not a wink. There‘s no grey area.

    One last word about arthritis pain...

    Even though I‘m a nutritionist, there‘s one last thing I need to tell you about arthritis: Get moving and you‘ll feel better! Sure, the last thing you feel like doing if you‘ve got arthritis in both hips is to exercise, but it‘s exactly what your body needs. In fact, the less you use the joint that‘s stiff and painful, the worse it becomes. Exercise is critical. First and foremost, it stimulates your circulatory system. This distributes healing nutrients to the joint that‘s causing you problems. Plus, remember the synovial fluid found in all your joints? When you don‘t exercise, that fluid gets thick and gunky. But when you exercise, your synovial fluid thins out and lubricates your joints properly. Plus, exercise keeps your cartilage healthy. You see, when you work out, the cartilage between your joints takes a pounding. But with each pounding, it also absorbs the nutrient-rich synovial fluid like a sponge and actually gets stronger. So what‘s the best exercise for you? For someone with arthritis, I always recommend walking, swimming, or bouncing on a trampoline. All three are gentle forms of exercise. You don‘t even need to break a sweat (though that‘s always good too). Just get going enough to raise your pulse and get the blood flowing throughout the body. Sure, tackling arthritis is not a quick-fix. You didn‘t get it in a week and you‘re not going to get rid of it that fast either. But there are steps you can take--without resorting to drugs--that can help you feel a little better each and every day.
  14. Vitamins may reduce the risk of heart attacks in women

    Taking a multivitamin is one of the foundations of good health, especially if you‘re a woman. In fact, researchers recently found that women with no history of heart disease who regularly take multivitamins significantly reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack. And the longer you take one, the better. For the study, a team of Swedish researchers followed about 30,000 women for 10 years. At the outset of the study, most of the women were healthy, with no history of heart disease and ranged in age from 49 to 83. And about 60 percent of them regularly took multivitamins. Over the next 10 years, about 1,100 women suffered heart attacks. But taking a multivitamin clearly lowered a woman‘s risk. In fact, women with no history of heart problems who took a daily multivitamin for five years reduced their heart attack risk by almost 20 percent. Plus, if a woman took a multivitamin for 10 years, she lowered her heart disease risk by 41 percent compared to non-vitamin takers. So when looking for a good multivitamin, here are a few tips: 1. Skip the grocery store brands. These only contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). And the RDA just doesn‘t cut it. As I‘ve said before, look for a high-quality multi that will give you 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. 2. Skip any the once-a-day brands. I know you like the convenience of an "all-in- one" daily vitamin. But all the good stuff can‘t fit into one single capsule. A good multivitamin usually consists of 3 to 6 capsules that you take throughout the day. 3. Look for a multi that contains digestive enzymes like amylase, lipase, and protease. These make your capsules bigger, but they‘re really important. They help support proper digestion and ensure the best possible absorption of vital nutrients in your multi.
  15. Vitamin D use skyrockets in U.S.

    This week, I read that 27 percent of Americans now take vitamin D. That‘s up from 16 percent just last year. And while I‘d like to hear that every American takes 5,000 IU of vitamin D, I‘m glad to hear that at least we‘re making progress. Vitamin D is critically important to your health. In fact, recent research suggests that vitamin D affects more than 200 of your genes. Over the years I‘ve written about it plenty as it relates to:
    • Stronger muscles
    • Decreased Parkinson‘s disease risk
    • Stronger immune health
    • Younger bones
    • Lowered risk of type-2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, as well as colon and breast cancer
    • Fewer urinary tract infections
    • Improved digestion
    • Happier moods
    So if you haven‘t yet joined the vitamin D bandwagon, now‘s the time to hop on. Go for up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D most readily absorbed by the body). You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks) and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. Lastly, make sure to have your vitamin D levels checked with your annual blood work. Ideally, you want your levels between 50-70 ng/mL.
  16. Surviving cold and flu season 101

    This week I‘ve got some more advice about arming yourself against winter‘s worst viruses and bacteria. In addition to vitamin D and probiotics, there are quite a few things you can do to protect yourself this winter. First off, make vitamin C part of your daily regimen. It‘s a powerful detoxifier that also stimulates our immune system. But here‘s what most people don‘t realize about vitamin C: It doesn‘t work a lick once you‘ve got a cold. So taking a few extra tabs once you‘ve got the sniffles isn‘t going to help you much. On the other hand, it works magnificently for the prevention of colds. So take it daily while you‘re healthy and you‘ll stay that way. Also, it‘s important to remember that vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time. So you‘ve got to take it a few times throughout the day. For basic cold prevention, take 1,000 mg two to three times a day. If you‘re under any type of stress -- physical or emotional -- you may want to go for more. Secondly, like vitamin C -- take the herb Echinacea daily to prevent catching a cold in the first place. It doesn‘t work well once you‘ve caught a cold. In fact, a few years back, scientists found that taking Echinacea and vitamin C together can reduce your risk of catching a cold by a whopping 86 percent! Thirdly, at the height of cold and flu season, for some extra immune system support add some EpiCor, Beta 1,3 Glucan, and Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) to the mix. EpiCor is 100 percent natural and helps to balance your immune system. Beta 1,3 Glucan is a natural polysaccharide that activates your white blood cells. And last but not least, ALA is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body to absorb nutrients from the food you eat.

    Home remedies that work

    I‘m also a big believer in saltwater gargles. Most folks know that it can help relieve a sore throat. But did you know that rinsing with saltwater could even block you from catching a cold in the first place? A few years back, that‘s exactly what scientists discovered! They recruited 400 healthy volunteers to see if saltwater rinses could actually prevent colds. Half of the volunteers rinsed with salt water every day for 60 days during cold and flu season. The other half did nothing. Scientists found that the volunteers who gargled regularly caught 40 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections compared to the non-garglers. Plus, when they did get sick, they got over it faster. Saltwater is effective against the common cold because it kills the bacteria in your throat, tonsils, and adenoids. I usually recommend dissolving half a teaspoon of salt in a glass full of warm water. Gargle for a minute or so before spitting it out. This will also help kill off bacteria that cause bad breath, so I gargle in the morning, after brushing and flossing my teeth.

    What should you take once you get a cold?

    Should you catch a cold this winter, there are a few things to do to get over it quicker. First off, here‘s the obvious: Lots of fluids and rest. Secondly, take a 13 mg zinc lozenge five or six times a day during your cold. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in your immune health. And while most research is mixed as to whether or not it can prevent a cold, one fact about zinc is quite clear. It can help you get over your cold faster! In 2008 scientists found that men and women who took a zinc lozenge every few hours within the first 24 hours of developing a cold got over the bug faster. In fact, their colds only last half as long as the control group who took a placebo. Plus, their coughs lasted for two days instead of five. And their noses only ran for three days, instead of four and a half. Just be careful about which kind of lozenge you buy. Find one that contains zinc acetate. Your body will absorb this kind the best. Also, avoid lozenges that contain citric acid or other flavorings. These added flavors block zinc‘s natural ability to boost your immune system and may actually make things worse. Also, long-term use of zinc is not safe. This can lead to a copper deficiency. So just make sure to stop the lozenges after you kick your cold.
  17. These immune system boosters can protect you against winter’s worst germs

    Think your digestion has nothing to do with how well you fight off a cold? Well, think again. A new study finds that a natural digestive aid may be your ticket to a healthier winter with fewer colds. In the Guide to Good Health, I‘ve talked often about the "good bacteria" (also known as intestinal flora) in your gut. These tiny microorganisms help you digest food. They also defend against toxins and germs. In fact, your digestive tract is your first line of defense against disease and the common cold. Normally, billions of these good bacteria line your digestive tract. But a poor diet, antibiotics, and other drugs can wipe out these healthy bugs. Also, as you get older, your body‘s supply of good bacteria falls off. The good news is, you can replenish your body‘s supply of these natural immune boosters with probiotic supplements. These supplements contain billions of units of good bacteria. (As a comparison, yogurt only contains a few million active bacteria by the time you eat it. And that‘s hardly enough protection against today‘s resilient germs.)

    Boost your immunity this winter with probiotics

    Scientists recently put probiotics to the test against the common cold. They recruited 272 healthy volunteers to take part in this double-blind placebo- controlled study (the gold standard in scientific circles). They gave half of the volunteers a daily probiotic that contained billions of units of healthy bacteria. The other volunteers received a placebo. After 12 weeks, the volunteers who took probiotics had a clear edge. In fact:
    • The probiotic group got 12 percent fewer colds.
    • The probiotic group also got over their colds 30 percent FASTER than the placebo group.
    • Lastly, the probiotic group‘s symptoms were LESS SEVERE than the placebo group.
    Not bad for a digestive aid that you‘re hopefully already taking! Plus, while we‘re talking about cold and flu season, don‘t forget about vitamin D.

    Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu...

    In addition to probiotics, Vitamin D also helps to boost your natural defense. It kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Plus, a recent study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo. During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even greater had the participants taken vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days. So even though it‘s not quite flu and cold season, now‘s the time to kick your immune system into high gear. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country. In addition, load up on the probiotics. Look for a capsule that contains billions of units from many different strains of bacteria.
  18. Benefits of cranberries for men may include better prostate function

    Cranberry juice isn‘t just for women anymore. A new study finds that cranberries also help men improve their prostate and urinary function. For the study, Czech researchers recruited 42 men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). LUTS is a common problem that affects about 40 percent of older men. Symptoms include slow flow, dribbling, hesitancy, and incomplete voiding. The men in the study also had benign prostatic hyperplasia (or BPH), elevated PSA levels, and non-bacterial prostatitis. The researchers wanted to see if taking a cranberry extract would improve urinary function in men with these pre-existing conditions. So they gave half of the men 1,500 mg per day of dried cranberry extract for six months. The other men received a placebo during the same timeframe. According to published research, the men taking the cranberry supplement showed significant improvements in six different areas:
    • Healthier scores on the International Prostate Symptom test
    • Increased urinary flow
    • Decrease in the amount of urine left in bladder after voiding
    • Increase in total volume of urine
    • Reduced PSA levels
    • Overall improvement in quality of life
    In addition, the men taking the cranberry extract reported zero side effects. (That‘s an important factor, when you consider the serious side effects associated with most prescription drugs used to treat BPH.) On the other hand, the men taking the placebo experienced no improvements in urinary or prostate function.

    Seven steps to a healthier prostate

    Last May, I talked about six steps to follow for a healthier prostate. And based on the results of the Czech research, you may want to consider adding a seventh step and take some cranberry extract every day...especially if you‘re over 50 and suffer from BPH or urinary problems. Dried cranberry extract is pretty easy to find. It comes in capsule form. Just make sure to give it some time before you expect to see any results. It may even take six months of steady supplementation before you experience any improvements in urinary flow.
  19. Watercress benefits – may protect against breast cancer

    If you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make sure you eat watercress as often as you can. It may just protect you against the cancer ever making a comeback. In fact, according to a new study, this tart leafy green starves out breast cancer cells and interferes with a major cancer pathway.

    Leafy green superfood protects DNA

    Watercress is a delicate leafy green that grows in spring water. It looks a lot like lettuce, but it actually belongs to the cabbage family. It‘s plentiful in iron, calcium, vitamin A and C and for thousands of years people have eaten it to stay healthy. In fact, ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed watercress with their meals. I‘ve even read that Hippocrates -- the father of medicine -- built his first hospital next to a spring so that he‘d have easy access to fresh watercress. A few years back, scientists found that watercress has a lot of anti-cancer potential. In fact, in one study, men and women who ate a serving of watercress each day for eight weeks increased antioxidant levels in their blood. This is important because antioxidants remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body. Plus, these folks decreased the DNA damage to their white blood cells by almost 25 percent. And why is that significant? Well, according to Professor Ian Rowland, the study‘s lead researcher, "Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk." So, the more DNA damage there is to your white blood cells, the higher your cancer risk. But eating watercress seems to lower your overall risk. And, apparently, this is especially beneficial for women...

    Watercress "shuts down" breast cancer delivery system

    The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress. As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels. And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels. To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF. This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor. As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels. But there‘s a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth...and that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!

    Breast cancer survivors load up on watercress

    For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors. The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours. The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants‘ blood samples. First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group? Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood. And that‘s not all... Remember that harmful protein -- called HIF -- that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors? Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate the watercress. This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin‘ after the women ate watercress. So, without a doubt, if you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen. I hear that in Britain that‘s their favorite type of green vegetable. Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce. It‘s got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower. Put it on sandwiches. Use it in salads. Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips. You can find tons of recipes on www.watercress.com.
  20. Vitamin slows brain atrophy by 50 percent

    Brain atrophy -- or brain shrinkage -- is very common in adults over the age of 60. It occurs when neurons in your brain die or lose their connection to other neurons. The average brain shrinks at a rate of .5 percent a year once you hit 60. And some of this "shrinkage" explains why you may not feel as sharp as you did when you were 20. For some, brain atrophy occurs at an accelerated pace. We call this "mild cognitive impairment" and it describes they type of memory loss that goes beyond the "normal" aging brain. People with this kind of mild cognitive impairment lose brain mass at a rate of 1 percent a year. And those with Alzheimer‘s disease experience a loss rate of 2.5 percent per year. For many decades, nutritionists have talked about one factor that plays a role in how quickly your brain shrinks: Your homocysteine level. Homocysteine is an amino acid implicated for its role in many different diseases, especially heart disease. It‘s also a major risk factor in whether or not you develop dementia and Alzheimer‘s. Basically, the more homocysteine in your blood, the higher your risk of experiencing serious cognitive decline. But, here‘s the good news...

    One vitamin significantly lowers your homocysteine levels

    It‘s well-documented that members of the vitamin B-complex family can significantly lower homocysteine levels. In fact, recent studies show that taking vitamin B every day can lower your homocysteine by 25 to 50 percent. And scientists from the University of Oxford recently took this premise one step further. Since we know that vitamin B decreases homocysteine, can we assume that it also slows brain shrinkage? And even more importantly, can it work for men and women who already show signs of memory loss? To answer these questions, the Oxford scientists recruited 271 healthy men and women over the age of 70 with mild cognitive impairment. The participants all scored below average on tests that assessed word recall and fluency. In addition, they all expressed concern over memory loss but had not been formally diagnosed with dementia. Next, each of the participants were given MRI scans to determine the amount of atrophy in their brain. In the next step the scientists divided the volunteers into two groups. One group took vitamin B supplements each day for two years. The tablets contained three components of the B family of vitamins: .8 mg of folic acid, .5 mg of B12, and 20 mg of B6. The other group received a placebo for two years; and to keep things honest, the participants weren‘t told whether they received the real vitamin or the placebo.

    Vitamin B group shows major improvements

    After two years, the participants got another set of MRIs and another round of blood work. The scientists then analyzed the data and here‘s what they found: 1. The vitamin B group lowered their homocysteine levels by an average of 23 percent. 2. Homocysteine levels of the placebo group increased by 8 percent. 3. Overall, the vitamin B group experienced 30 percent less brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group. 4. Lastly, people with the most homocysteine at the outset of the study benefitted the most. They experienced 50 percent less brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group. According to Professor David Smith and lead scientist from the Oxford team, "We have shown that treatment for two years with B vitamins markedly slows the accelerated rate of atrophy in people with mild cognitive impairment." He went on to say, "It‘s a bigger effect than anyone could have predicted and it‘s telling us something biological. These vitamins are doing something to the brain structure – they‘re protecting it, and that‘s very important because we need to protect the brain to prevent Alzheimer‘s." Gee, I couldn‘t have said it better myself!

    Get on the vitamin B bandwagon!

    There are lots of things you can do to protect your brain against shrinkage. First off, make sure you‘re taking a quality multivitamin. It should contain at least 25 mg of B6. Next, think about adding .8 mg folic acid and .5 mg B12 into your regimen. You‘ll need to take them separately to get to the dosage used in the study. Folic acid is easy to find. And B12 isn‘t too bad either, really. You‘ll just need to take the sub-lingual form. This means it comes as a liquid and you use a dropper to place it under your tongue. There‘s also a dissolvable, under-the-tongue pill form that‘s popular.

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